Communities with vastly contrasting ecology, amenities

Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

I  LIVE in Sta. Mesa, Manila—at the very center of Metro Manila—where there is never a dull moment.

Recently, I had the opportunity to enjoy a “staycation” at an exclusive and posh village in the south of the metropolis. I volunteered to babysit my granddaughter. It was an enjoyable experience of contrasts.

The Sta. Mesa of some years back was a residential area with two or three neighborhood variety stores around. Everybody practically knew each other since we go to the nearby Parish Church and elementary schools.

In Sta. Mesa now, I practically don’t know my neighbors anymore. Many of the first settlers have gone to live in other places in Metro Manila or in other parts of the country or even abroad. Even the structures have changed, from bungalows and two-story houses made mostly of wood to concrete three- to five-story buildings.

One thing I enjoy about living in the inner city is that a lot of things I need for everyday living are just a short walk away. Nearby are several hardware stores, variety stores, 24-hour stores, barber shops, beauty salons, water-refilling stations, LPG retailers, karaoke bar, pharmacy, generic pharmacy, tire-changing stations, shoe-repair shops, fruit stalls, newspaper dealers, freshly fried peanuts, bakeshop, burger and pizza joints, and many others, especially along the main roads, V. Mapa and Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard (at the boundary of Quezon City, it becomes Aurora Boulevard).

And all these micro and small enterprises have been there for the longest time (even with competition by their side), indicative of good business. There are itinerant vendors selling “sa malamig,” fruits, veggies, fresh buko, fishball and others. There are also traveling peddlers of beds, chairs, tables, living room set, plastic wares, electric fans, paintings; it seems anything one needs! Business is good!

Nobody in my neighborhood will ever go hungry because we have all sorts of carinderia (canteens, some are even a la sidewalk café) that are open 24/7, serving steaming hot food at very reasonable prices, with free soup. My childhood friend Linda has been there ever since I could remember and she is still cooking and serving good food—hers is my favorite carinderia because I know she is very concerned about good hygiene and proper sanitation. And she gives me “dagdag” every time I buy or a peso or two pesos’ discount—for childhood friendship’s sake, she says. I asked her once when she would quit and she said that it is not going to happen soon because she is still sending her son to school and that she enjoys what she is doing, with profit as a bonus. She chooses to remain small so she could manage with one or two helpers. Help is hard to come by, her only concern.

Our appliances and gadgets—refrigerator, television, radio, electric fan, air-conditioning unit, typewriter and now computer, cell phone, and others—are readily and quickly repaired by expert technicians close by. Who do we call for busted plumbing, sparking electric wires, tangled telephone and cable wires? The friendly neighborhood expert! There are all sorts of car mechanics in the vicinity; you only need to buy the parts in Banawe [a street in Quezon City popular for its auto parts stores].

The affable resident community doctor is ready to serve or we have neighbor doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, and other medical practitioners. Clinics are also around while hospitals are one or two jeepney or train rides away. Accountants are numerous and so are IT experts and buy-and-sell businessmen and women. Initial lawyers’ advice could be had for free. Places of worship of different congregations are close by and priests could be requested to say Mass at the barangay chapel.

Jeepneys, buses, taxis, UV Express vans, and tricycles are available 24/7. A car is really a luxury here. The V. Mapa LRT-2 Station is just two minutes’ walk.

Now back to that exclusive posh village down south. It was truly a vacation with my granddaughter and son while my daughter-in-law toured Turkey and Greece with my “balae.” Greens all around us. Beautiful gardens with ornamental plants. Several parks with wide playgrounds for children and sports facilities for young and adults. Big, palatial houses with interesting architecture, wide paved streets, wide sidewalks with plants, too. Even their church is extra big and opulently decorated.

Day and night, it was blissfully quiet. Except for the sound of an occasional car passing by, one could hear a needle drop, so to speak. The only time I saw a lot of people was at the Sunday Mass. There are barely people around, even in parks or the village center or the Saturday wet market or the seasonal plants sale area. Where are the neighbors? I was told that big guns in business and famous entertainment personalities live there. It was a heavily secured neighborhood. One needs a sticker to enter with your vehicle or the permission of a home owner you are visiting.

I felt trapped. To buy anything, I had to be driven to outside the village, to the town center or the regular wet market or the supermarket, the mall or to a nearby town. Drivers are prized employees there. No driver, even if you have a fleet of cars, no movement. We had to drive to Chow King to have “halo-halo” and to Binan, Laguna, for pancit bihon!

After a while, it was boring to watch the episodes of Sherlock Holmes, The Idiot Traveller and Kung Fu Panda while my granddaughter was asleep. Plants & Zombies and Facebook were ho-hum, too.

I enjoyed my stay there—truly a different kind of world—the peace and quiet (even the driver, kasambahays and nannies speak in low voices and seem to tiptoe around the house) and the air-conditioning in these super-hot days and nights. Most of all, I enjoyed my granddaughter for two blissful weeks. Thank you, Chris, Aids and Balae. I am ready to babysit her anytime. I love you, Frankie!

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